What happens when a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew walk down the street together? The beginning of a bad joke, right? Wrong. The Muslim was Plemon el-Amin, imam of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam. The Christian was James Lampkin, senior pastor of Atlanta’s Northside Drive Baptist Church. And the Jew was Sherry Frank, executive director of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. The street was Yerebatan Caddesi in the old city of Istanbul. The year was 2002. This walk marked the beginning of a remarkable experiment in interfaith community-building by a city nearly 6,000 miles away.
Last week I was in a Moroccan restaurant in Seattle and had a unique experience: The very nice Palestinian man who ran the restaurant started speaking to me in his Shammi (Eastern) Arabic, and I responded in my good Moroccan Darija over mint tea and cookies. He was shocked to hear a non-Arab speak Arabic in a proper dialect, and when I told him I was Russian he said “No, no it can’t be! Arab blood runs in your veins!”
We’ve become the tools of our tools and the fault – and the solution – lie not in our tools, but in ourselves.
For all the stunning achievements of science and technology in the last 400 years, there has been a blind spot at the center of both enterprises: the absence of an overarching vision that ties everything together, or the recognition that, in fact, everything is indeed connected.
The sheer amount of information now makes it impossible for any single person to grasp the whole of knowledge, as Leonardo da Vinci once could. As a result, scientists and technologists become buried in silos of information with little or no vision of what is upstream or downstream of their work.